the dawn of the spaghetti western, there was the
peplum. In the period 1959-64, until the
likes of Django and the Man with No Name rode
into town, the most popular genre films exported
to the world by Italy were "Sword and Sandal"
movies — pepla in Italian ("peplum" is
the singular form). Over 200 of these flex-fests
were cranked out; the most popular by far being
the Hercules films starring Steve Reeves, which
started the whole cinematic craze for mythological
musclemen. Usually shot in glorious color, with
Mediterranean locales serving as a picturesque
backdrop, these flicks chronicled the adventures
of various bronzed and beefy he-men as they battled
tyrants and monsters to liberate the oppressed
peoples of the earth (and, naturally, get the
girl). For American audiences most of these heroes
had their name changed, whatever it was — often
Maciste, a champion from Italian folklore — to
Hercules, Samson, or Colossus. With this new DVD
release the folks at Something Weird Video have
cobbled together an assortment of pepla-related
stuff that should appeal to fans of the genre.
Though not billed as a double feature disc, it
comes with two complete films, three short features
and a host of sword and sandal trailers from the
days of yore.
disc's main feature is 1960's Goliath
and the Dragon. It's a pretty bad movie.
It concerns the travails of Goliath the Mighty
(Forest), a well-meaning — if pompous — do-gooder
possessing superhuman strength. Though all Goliath
desires is to be left alone to raise his family
and tend his lands, various gods and goddesses
always seem to be dumping tasks on him or making
prophecies that spell doom if he doesn't get off
his keester. He's given all sorts of grief because
his younger brother is in love with Thea (Federica
Ranchi), daughter of the dead, deposed king of
Okaria, who had their parents killed. The usurper
who currently sits upon Okaria's throne, the evil
Eurystheus (Broderick Crawford), also desires
Thea, to satisfy both his political ambitions
and his lust. Eurystheus happens to hate Goliath's
guts, too, for reasons not made fully clear —
he just wants him dead. You'll probably
want the G-Man dead if you're able to make it
even halfway through this flick.
Goliath, though he excels at rock climbing and
spear chucking, is one super dud of a superhero.
Courtesy of those pesky gods he's got a major
chip on his
shoulder and is pretty damn surly for a Good Guy.
(Goliath's method of resolving a dispute with
his brother is to tie him to a tree until he cries
uncle.) While acting skills have never been a
requirement for such roles, Forest is a bland,
generic he-man in a skirt; he can't hold a candle
to the great Steve Reeves or Gordon Scott. You
won't care in the least whether he succeeds or
fails. So that leaves the babes, the beasts or
the bad guys to carry the film.
customarily feature a parade of European beauties;
Goliath and the Dragon
is no exception. Unfortunately, the gals on hand
here wear entirely too much clothing. (We don't
even get the obligatory palace production number
featuring scantily-clad dancing girls!) The monsters
— to include a three-headed hellhound, a flying
man-bat, and a rampaging bear (a stunt man in
a ratty costume) — are laughably ridiculous. The
lusty centaur who shows up two-thirds the way
through the film to kidnap Goliath's wife isn't
too bad... that is, until he morphs into a two-legged
version resembling a guy wearing fur-covered fishing
waders. The dragon, surprisingly, first appears
as a rather cute stop-motion Claymation number
— only to make way for a not-so-animatronic "life-size"
mockup that makes H.R. Puffinstuff look like CGI.
Goliath does get to square off against a real,
though decidedly scrawny, prisoner-crushing elephant,
however. As for the villain, veteran American
character actor Broderick Crawford is badly miscast
as Eurystheus. The sight of him wrestling a rubber
snake is so painfully pathetic it barely induces
there are some unintentional yucks to be had.
In addition to the stupid-looking monsters, a
pissed-off Goliath telling the gods where to stick
it was fairly amusing. But where, oh where, is
the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang when
you most need 'em?
and the Dragon is presented
in 2.35:1 widescreen — the only way to watch
pepla — though the claim of "digitally remastered"
has to be taken with a grain of salt. Print damage
is occasionally evident, while colors range from
vivid to faded from one scene to the next. In any
case it looks a lot better than most films of its
kind did when shown on TV. Sound quality is fine.
above, for its first sword and sandal DVD Something
Weird has assembled a bonus-packed disc... perhaps
in compensation for the less-than-stellar main feature.
Three featurettes are included: The Son of Hercules
vs. the Fire Monsters (culled from pepla that
were retitled and syndicated as a series to U.S.
television in the '60s); Muscleman Montage
(narrated by Boris Karloff!), a clip derived from
the film Mondo Belardo;
and Hercules Oblivious, which is... well,
simply strange. (A slab of beefcake flexes atop
a pedestal, a woman performing interpretive dance
moves around him, while a narrator babbles nonsense.
Huh?) No less than 13 trailers are offered
(most in pretty bad shape), to such films as
Against the Moon Men, Samson
and the Seven Miracles Of The World,
Roger Corman's Atlas,
Colossus and the Amazon Queen,
and others. There's also a
gallery of Sword and Sandal poster art set to the
strains of the Sons of Hercules TV theme
song — played about nine times in a row.
Billed as an "Extra Added Attraction"
is the complete 92-minute sci-fi peplum Conqueror
of Atlantis (1965),
starring Kirk Morris as "Herakles". (It's
probably really a Maciste flick.) This might have
made for a more entertaining main feature than
Goliath and the Dragon,
what with its gonzo Buck-Rogers-meets-Hercules costumes
and re-animated, gold-painted warriors for the hero
to smack around. Unfortunately the pan-and-scan
print that was used looks like a muddy EP-speed